Was a TSA agent particularly “touchy” with you before your last flight? Did you have a squeamish experience with an IRS agent? It’s Yelp to the rescue!
The popular rating website that provides peer-to-peer feedback on everything from restaurants to autobody shops in your neighborhood or a neighborhood across the country is teaming up with the General Services Administration to give government agencies access to their Yelp pages. This would allow government workers to respond directly to complaints or feedback left on their pages from Americans frustrated by public services.
Federal agencies have had pages on Yelp for a while – set up by users. This partnership now puts the onus of customer service on agencies who choose to participate. They can no longer claim ignorance of problems as a legitimate defense.
The Atlantic reports:
… People have been reviewing federal departments on Yelp for years; the TSA, for example, “earned” its first one-star review all the way back in 2006, less than a year after Yelp relaunched as an open website, when a Seattle-based user with the handle of MissMaryAnn D. complained about harassment, said she did not feel secure in the airport, and, speaking the universal language of the online commenter, called the agency “A PAIN IN MY ASS.” Over the years, a handful of similar critiques have accrued on the TSA page, along with one or two comments defending the workers charged with preventing another 9/11 and accusing the complainers of pettiness.
Yet the agreement handing over the pages to the government has the potential to the make the experience of venting online more interactive, and ideally, more productive. For one, it can serve as another outlet for agencies to provide basic information about their hours and services. And if enough people begin rating and using the pages, agencies can make improvements large and small based on the feedback they receive. Phaedra Chrousos, who holds the title of “chief customer officer” at the General Services Administration, said the pact with Yelp is part of a broader push to improve the customer experience across the government. The GSA has already launched an offline program called Feedback USA in partnership with agencies like the TSA and the Social Security Administration.
Since Yelp has been popular for several years, it’s worthing asking what took the government so long to partner with it. Predictably, bureaucracy and legalese got in the way. Chrousos said negotiations have been going on for a full year to get Yelp’s terms of service “compliant with the government.” While agencies won’t be able to edit or remove poor reviews, the feds did insist that most advertising be removed from official government pages. “We started it a little late,” she acknowledged.
Guess which federal agency isn’t too excited to jump on board? The Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The agency says their Twitter customer service is good enough.
Just remember what the TSA’s Twitter behavior is like; recently a spokeswomen tweeted the contents of a passenger’s bag with her commentary included. That’s good customer service alright!
Here is what the TSA is saying about not joining Yelp:
David Castelveter, a TSA spokesman, said he wasn’t aware of the program that Yelp recently announced with the headline “How Many Stars Would You Give the TSA? Review Federal Agencies on Yelp…and Maybe Get a Response.”
Castelveter didn’t rule out using the program in the future, but as of now the agency will not be responding to the reviews.
“We look forward to learning more about the functionality of this new program,” he said. However, he added “we think there are more benefits to a two-way real time exchange between TSA and travelers using Twitter.”
The organization already employs people all over the country to deal with customer service on Twitter — and they think it is working just fine.
“The system that we’re using today is tried and true,” he said of the account which has nearly 50,000 followers. The agency also has regional Twitter accounts.
Will federal agencies engaging on Yelp be the solution to our problems with them? Likely not, but it’s a step in the right direction and another chance for transparency and accountability with this notorious agencies like the IRS and the TSA.